Making Time to Study
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The social connections that you make in college can enrich both your personal life and your learning experience. Though some returning students find themselves feeling outnumbered by young and inexperienced classmates, most campuses today are diverse, lively places, filled with people who have arrived at college by widely varied paths. Your fellow students can be a source of insight, encouragement, and enjoyment.
No matter how self-sufficient you are, a project as big as a college degree is likely to require a bit of assistance. If you have a supportive spouse or partner, you're in luck. This person will be your cheerleader, tutor, finance-provider, perhaps even your chauffeur and chef (if you have all these things in one person, you've hit the jackpot!). While you further your education, you will probably have to rely on your partner to pick up the slack around the home. Make sure that he/she knows
how important your academic goals are to you and how much you appreciate the help.
This may be a time to cut back on chores and responsibilities. If you have the luxury of extra cash, it's easier to give yourself a break. Get takeout, order pizza, or grab dinner from the deli on busy nights. Pay the teenager next door to mow the lawn. Cut back on your hours at work, if you must - even if it means losing a little overtime pay. Remember that working toward a degree is temporary.
Of course, there are responsibilities you can't give up, even temporarily. Balancing post-secondary education with raising a family is a challenge for everyone who undertakes it - especially if you are a single parent. A great daycare or school can provide you with some of the time necessary for courses and study, but you may still find that you need more time to complete your academic work. While you are studying at home in the evenings can be the perfect time for an older child to take on
some responsibility. You are still there to supervise should any emergencies occur, but children in grade school are old enough to look after themselves for an hour or two at a time, and many children are mature enough to begin caring for their siblings by the final years of elementary school. With a lot of praise and a little reward - perhaps a small raise in their allowance, a movie night once a week, or an evening when they get to choose what you'll have for dinner - children can see the value in the work they can do, whether it is caring for younger siblings, washing the dishes, or picking up their own room.
Feeling guilty for having less quality time with your family? Try making study time a family activity. Gather around a table or sack out together in the living room. Add some healthy snacks and drinks to make it more festive. Kids can complete homework, color, or read while you work. Not only will you have time together, but you can start them on the path to being lifetime learners - just like you.
Jacqueline West returned to college to earn her teaching certification while working full-time. She now lives, writes, and teaches English in Wisconsin.